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Why do i fall over

Falls and Fractures in Older Adults: Causes and Prevention

A simple accident like tripping on a rug or slipping on a wet floor can change your life. If you fall, you could break a bone, which thousands of older adults experience each year. For older people, a broken bone can also be the start of more serious health problems and can lead to long-term disability.

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If you or an older adult in your life has fallen, you’re not alone. More than one in four people age 65 years or older fall each year. The risk of falling — and fall-related problems — rises with age. However, many falls can be prevented. For example, exercising, managing your medications, having your vision checked, and making your home safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.

Many older adults fear falling, even if they haven’t fallen before. This fear may lead them to avoid activities such as walking, shopping, or taking part in social activities. But staying active is important to keeping your body healthy and actually helps to prevent falls. So don’t let a fear of falling keep you from being active! Learn about what causes falls and how to lower your risk of falling so you can feel more comfortable with staying active.

What causes falls in older adults?

Many things can cause a fall.

  • Your eyesight, hearing, and reflexes might not be as sharp as they were when you were younger.
  • Certain conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or problems with your thyroid, nerves, feet, or blood vessels can affect your balance and lead to a fall.
  • Conditions that cause rushed movement to the bathroom, such as incontinence, may also increase the chance of falling.
  • Older adults with mild cognitive impairment or certain types of dementia are at higher risk of falling.
  • Age-related loss of muscle mass (known as sarcopenia), problems with balance and gait, and blood pressure that drops too much when you get up from lying down or sitting (called postural hypotension) are all risk factors for falling.
  • Foot problems that cause pain, and unsafe footwear such as backless shoes or high heels, can also increase your risk of falling.
  • Some medications can increase a person’s risk of falling because they cause side effects such as dizziness or confusion. The more medications you take, the more likely you are to fall.
  • Safety hazards in the home or community environment can also cause falls.

Steps to take to prevent falls

If you take care of your overall health, you may have a lower chance of falling. Most of the time, falls and accidents don’t just happen for no reason. Here are a few tips to help lessen your risk of falls and broken bones, also known as fractures:

Read and share this infographic and help spread the word about how to help prevent falls.
  • Stay physically active. Plan an exercise program that is right for you. Regular exercise improves muscles and makes you stronger. Exercise also helps keep your joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible. Mild weight-bearing activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, may slow bone loss from osteoporosis, a disease that makes bones weak and more likely to break
  • Try balance and strength training exercises. Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi can all improve balance and muscle strength. You can also try lifting weights or using resistance bands to build strength. Learn more about different types of exercises to improve balance and strength.
  • Fall-proof your home. Check out these tips for changes you can make to your home that will help you avoid falls and ensure your safety.
  • Have your eyes and hearing tested. Even small changes in sight and hearing are linked to an increased risk for falls. When you get new eyeglasses or contact lenses, take time to get used to them. Wear your glasses or contacts as your eye doctor advises. If you have a hearing aid, be sure it fits well and wear it.
  • Find out about the side effects of any medicines you take. If a drug makes you sleepy or dizzy, tell your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Get enough sleep. If you are tired, you are more likely to fall.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol. Too much alcohol can lead to balance problems and falls, which can result in hip or arm fractures and other injuries.
  • Stand up slowly. Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop. That can make you feel wobbly. Get your blood pressure checked when lying and standing.
  • Use an assistive device if you need help feeling steady when you walk. Using canes and walkers correctly can help prevent falls. If your doctor tells you to use a cane or walker, make sure it’s the right size for you. Walker wheels should roll smoothly. If you borrow walking support equipment from a friend, ask your health care provider to make sure the equipment is the correct size and is safe to use. This is exceptionally important when you’re walking in areas you don’t know well or where the walkways are uneven. A physical or occupational therapist can help you decide which devices might be helpful and teach you how to use them safely.
  • Take extra caution when walking on wet or icy surfaces. These can be very slippery! Use an ice melt product or sand to clear icy areas by your doors and walkways.
  • Keep your hands free. Use a shoulder bag, fanny pack, or backpack to leave your hands free to hold on to railings.
  • Choose the right footwear. To fully support your feet, wear nonskid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes. Don’t walk on stairs or floors in socks or in shoes and slippers with smooth soles.
  • Consider staying inside when the weather is bad. Some community services provide 24-hour delivery of prescriptions and groceries, and many take orders over the phone.
  • Always tell your doctor if you have fallen since your last check-up, even if you did not feel pain when you fell. A fall can alert your doctor to a new medical problem or issues with your medications or eyesight that can be corrected. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy, a walking aid, or other steps to help prevent future falls.

What to do if you fall

Whether you are at home or somewhere else, a sudden fall can be startling and upsetting. If you do fall, stay as calm as possible and take the following steps:

  • Breathe. Take several deep breaths to try to relax. Remain still on the floor or ground for a few moments. This will help you get over the shock of falling.
  • Decide if you are hurt. Getting up too quickly or in the wrong way could make an injury worse.
  • Crawl to a sturdy chair. If you think you can get up safely without help, roll over onto your side. Rest again while your body and blood pressure adjust. Slowly get up on your hands and knees, and crawl to a sturdy chair.
  • Slowly sit down in the chair. Put your hands on the chair seat and slide one foot forward so that it’s flat on the floor. Keep the other leg bent so the knee is on the floor. From this kneeling position, slowly rise and turn your body to sit in the chair.
  • Get help. If you are hurt or cannot get up on your own, ask someone for help or call 911. If you are alone, try to get into a comfortable position and wait for help to arrive. Prepare for a fall by keeping a well-charged cordless or mobile phone with you at all times and arrange for daily contact with a family member or friend. Emergency response systems are another option: These systems enable you to push a button on a special necklace or bracelet to call for help. Some smartwatches also have this feature.

Keep your bones strong to prevent fall-related fractures

Having healthy bones won’t necessarily prevent a fall, but if you do fall, healthy bones may help prevent serious injury, such as breaking a hip or other bone. Bone breaks and fracture can lead to a hospital or nursing home stay, long-term disability, or even death. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D can help keep your bones strong. So can staying active. Try to get at least 150 minutes per week of physical activity.

Other ways to maintain bone health include quitting smoking and avoiding or limiting alcohol use. Tobacco and alcohol use may decrease your bone mass and increase your chance of fractures. Additionally, try to maintain a healthy weight. Being underweight increases the risk of bone loss and broken bones.

Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones, making them thin and brittle. For people with osteoporosis, even a minor fall may be dangerous. Talk to your doctor about osteoporosis.

Falls are a common reason for trips to the emergency room and for hospital stays among older adults. Many of these hospital visits are for fall-related fractures. You can help lower your risk of fractures by keeping your bones strong and following the tips above to avoid falls.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For more information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
888-232-6348 (TTY)
[email protected] gov

National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modifications
[email protected]

Rebuilding Together
[email protected]

National Falls Prevention Resource Center

This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.

Content reviewed: September 12, 2022

Related Articles

Causes of falls | NHS inform

We shouldn't accept falls as a normal part of getting older. It's true that as we age our chances of having a fall increase, but falls are caused by a number of risk factors that can affect a person of any age.

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is something that increases your chances of developing a problem, disease or injury. Risk factors relating to your health and wellbeing, activities and surroundings can contribute to a fall.

Although hazards within the home often contribute to a fall, more often than not falls are caused by personal risk factors.

Risk factors for falls

Falls are usually caused by an interaction of a number of risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of falling. Falls prevention is about recognising, and where possible, taking action to reduce the risk.

If you experience any, or a combination, of the following you could be at an increased risk:

  • weak muscles, especially in the legs
  • poor balance, causing unsteadiness on your feet
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • black outs, fainting or loss of consciousness
  • foot problems – including pain and deformities
  • memory loss, confusion or difficulties with thinking or problem solving
  • vision and hearing problems
  • taking medication that makes you dizzy or drowsy
  • drinking too much alcohol, especially with medication
  • some bladder or bowel conditions

Weak muscles

Our muscles gradually get weaker as we get older, affecting our strength and balance and making it more difficult to undertake daily activities.

As well as normal changes caused by ageing, there are a number of reasons why our muscles get weaker, including:

  • lack of physical activity and exercise
  • conditions like arthritis and polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

Poor balance

A number of things can cause poor balance, including:

  • weak muscles
  • health conditions – such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease
  • the side effects of some medications

Dizziness can also affect balance.

Find out how to improve your balance and muscle strength 

Dizziness or lightheadedness

There are a number of reasons why someone might be dizzy or lightheaded. It's not normally a sign of anything serious, but should be checked out by a doctor.

Understanding why you become dizzy is important to countering the risk. Some of the most common causes include:

  • postural hypotension (orthostatic hypotension) – a drop in blood pressure when getting up from lying or sitting. This can be caused by dehydration, ageing circulation, medical conditions such as Parkinson's disease and heart conditions and some medications used to treat high blood pressure
  • inner ear problems – such as labyrinthitis or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
  • problems with your heart rate or rhythm
  • dehydration

Black outs, fainting or loss of consciousness

If you're prone to black outs, fainting or losing consciousness, you're at a high risk of having a fall. Loss of consciousness can be caused by a number of things, including problems with your heart rate and rhythm caused by conditions like:

  • bradycardia (slow heart rate)
  • tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
  • atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rate)

Always speak to your GP if you've experienced a black out, loss of consciousness or have found yourself on the floor and don’t know why or how. Many of these conditions can be treated successfully.

Foot problems

Problems with our feet – such as corns, calluses, bunions, ingrown or thick nails and ulcerations – and footwear that is poorly fitted and inappropriate for the occasion, can also increase a person's risk of falling.

Foot problems can also make it more difficult to exercise and keep active, which is especially important if you're already unsteady on your feet because of weak muscles or poor balance.

Numbness in the feet, sometimes linked to diabetes, can leave you unable to fully sense where your foot is on the floor, leading to an increased risk of a fall.

Read more about looking after your feet 

Memory loss, confusion or difficulties with thinking or problem solving

As we get older, problems with memory loss, confusion, difficulties with thinking and problem solving, can become more common. This can affect your ability to judge risky situations, take precautions when moving around your home and recognise hazards, leading to an increased risk of falls.

Vision and hearing problems

Problems with your vision and hearing can make it more difficult to move around safely. Eye problems can make it difficult to anticipate and spot slip or trip hazards in your home.

As we get older, changes to our depth perception and ability to adjust to changes in lighting can also contribute to the risk of falls. If you wear bifocal or varifocal lenses in your glasses, you might sometimes find it difficult going down steps, stairs and kerbs.

Cataracts, glaucoma and vision-related problems linked to stroke or dementia can also increase your risk of falling.

Read more about looking after your vision and hearing


The side effects of some medicines – such as dizziness, lightheadedness, unsteadiness, drowsiness, blurred or double vision and difficulty thinking clearly, and taking more than 4 medicines at the same time, can increase your chance of falling.

Medications that most commonly cause these symptoms include:

  • psychotropics (tablets to treat low mood)
  • blood pressure lowering medications
  • sleeping tablets and sedatives
  • anticonvulsants (medication for epilepsy)

Side effects can vary from person to person depending on their age, weight, gender, ethnicity and general health, so it's important that you know and understand how your medication affects you to prevent falls occurring.

Learn more about managing your medication 


Drinking too much alcohol, especially with some medications, can make you unsteady on your feet and slow your reactions. As we get older, our bodies find it more difficult to process alcohol and we can become more sensitive to its effects, causing an increased risk of falls.

How much alcohol should you be drinking?

Bladder and bowel conditions

If you have a bladder or bowel condition that causes you to rush to the toilet, or visit more often during the day or night, you could be at an increased risk of falling. This is especially the case if you're already unsteady on your feet or feel dizzy when getting up from sitting or lying down.

Continence problems, and the symptoms of bladder irritability, can often be improved with the correct treatment.

A fall as a warning sign

A fall might be the first sign of a new or worsening health condition. New, and often temporary, health conditions that can cause falls include:

  • constipation
  • infection — including a bladder, urinary tract or chest infection
  • dehydration
  • sudden confusion (sometimes called delirium)

For this reason, you should always speak to your GP practice, or other health professional – such as a physiotherapist or occupational therapist – if you've had a fall.

Telecare Self-Check online tool

Visit the Telecare Self-Check online tool to find the right support for you in your area. This easy to use online tool allows you to find helpful information on telecare services that could help you live independently at home for longer.

Why do we feel like we're falling when we fall asleep?

  • William Park
  • BBC Future

You probably know that strange feeling when you fall asleep, when you think that you are falling? You shudder all over and wake up. A BBC Future reader asks how science explains this phenomenon.

Thanks to Rini Patel for the question. If you too have questions for the BBC Future team as part of our Ask Us Something series, you can write (in English) to our email address [email protected] or [email protected]

Undoubtedly, you also felt a sharp shuddering of the body during falling asleep. If at this moment you dream, you dream that you have lost your balance and are falling.

When startling becomes part of the dream, say you dream that you stumble, this phenomenon is called "dream incorporation". It demonstrates the amazing ability of our mind to improvise.

A phenomenon known as the "hypnotic jerk" sheds light on the complex processes that go on in our brains during sleep.

What causes hypnotic jerks?

During sleep, our body becomes immobile. We stop paying attention to what is going on around us. But our muscle control doesn't turn off instantly like a switch.

A part of the brain called the reticular activating system controls the basic functions of our body, such as breathing. It is also responsible for the feeling of "consciousness". In contrast, the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus, located close to the optic nerve, activates the feeling of fatigue and the desire to sleep.

When we fall asleep, the reticular activating system releases its control of the body and hands it over to the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus. This process is similar to the action of a light switch, but it does not always go smoothly.

Photo copyright, Getty

Photo caption,

Our brain "incorporates" physical sensations into dreams

Random bursts of energy that accumulate during body activity are expressed in sudden movements or shuddering, the causes of which are not fully known. Unlike rapid eye movements, they have nothing to do with dreams in our brain. But they are rather the remnants of daily activity.

Is it safe?

An even stranger and rather painful phenomenon, called the exploding head syndrome, is caused by a similar process - the struggle for control of the body between the sleeping and the awake mind. As a result of this extremely unpleasant syndrome, we can feel flashing lights and hear loud bangs.

In particularly severe cases, patients complain of prolonged insomnia and even the feeling that they have been abducted by aliens.

However, in general, hypnotic jerks should not bother you. This is just a funny coincidence in the work of our body systems during falling asleep. “There is a pleasing symmetry between the two kinds of movements we make during sleep,” writes our correspondent Tom Stafford. “Rapid eye movements are caused by dreams that reflect what happened to us during the day. And hypnotic jerks turn out to be an interference of our physical activity in the world dreams."

Image copyright Thinkstock

Image caption,

Jerking and jerking while falling asleep are the remnants of our physical activity that interfere with dreams

Read original of this article in English you can visit the site BBC Future

Read Online When I Fall in My Sleep by Karen White - LitRes

Dedicated to Claire

Caol Ait (Gaelic for "thin place"): places where, according to legend, there is a crack between the worlds.

According to legend, only three feet separate the earth from heaven, and even less in thin places. Carrowmore, in County Sligo, Ireland, is one of the many thin spots around the world. Time does not move there, and our mortal world is in close contact with the afterlife.



Georgetown, SC

I think I'm dead, but I still smell the evening primrose. I can hear the chirping of swallows soaring in the blood-red sunset sky above the blackened Corinthian columns and the dilapidated chimneys of Carrowmore. This house is named after the legendary Irish "thin spot". I hear Sissy's voice explaining what the name means and why I should stay out of here, but as always, I don't listen to her.

Carrowmore and I are old ruins: the facade is cracked, the foundation is undermined. Ironically, I am destined to die in this house. As a child, I almost died here. Looks like Carrowmore has been waiting all these years for a second chance.

In the distance, the rumble of an engine is heard - it's Ellis' 66 Mustang. If I could have moved, I would have run out to meet him before Ellis rang the horn. Daddy hates Ellis, his long hair and this car.

But I can't move. The only thing I remember is that the floorboard fell under my foot, I heard the crack of rotten wood, and here I am lying here, smashed to smithereens.

My mind reminds me that Ellis died forty years ago and sold his precious car in 1969 before going to Fort Gordon [1] . A pungent exhaust smell comes over me. Maybe Ellis is still alive? Finally he came for me.

I have something soft and silky in my fist. Apparently, at the moment of the fall, I convulsively squeezed my fingers.

Hairband. I took it from Larkin's dresser. Larkin, my sweet girl... She wanted so much to be like me, but I, on the contrary, was afraid that she would become like me. I wanted my daughter to be happy. Larkin is no longer a child and has long grown out of hair ribbons, but I kept her room intact, hoping that one day she will return home when she finds the strength to forgive all of us and herself.

I remember using a black felt-tip pen to draw bold letters on the tape, spitting out my anger. But this is my only clear memory. I don't feel angry anymore and I don't remember the reason for it. I only remember how I wrote on the tape, and then fell. My memory plays a trick on me - I see in great detail the events of forty years ago, and what happened only half an hour ago is as if locked in a dark closet.

Loud popping sounds in the head, flashes of light like shooting stars flicker before the eyes. Probably, these are the swallows of the past, settled in my memories. Finally comes the pain, hot and clear: it originates at the base of the skull, rises and slowly squeezes the brain with a huge hand.

Darkness covers me like a mask. Everything around is plunged into darkness. All that remains is the smell of old car exhaust and the shrill chirping of swallows that have returned home to build their nests.



Hearing the opening chords of the old song, I looked up from my computer and looked around in satisfaction. I love my desktop. It's not about beauty or unusual design - it has neither one nor the other: I just like its ordinary functionality.

My desk is no different from the desks of the other copywriters at Vox & Crandall, the advertising agency I've been with for five years, except for one thing: it has no personal items. No photo frames, no tasteless trinkets, no rubber bands. There are no papers, no photographs, nothing on the walls that enclose my workplace, nothing that would remind of four years spent in Fordham [2] . My only link to the past is a gold chain with three pendants; I wear it under my clothes without taking it off and don't show it to anyone.

No one asks why my desk is so empty, and thank God. In New York, no one cares where you come from; here they are only interested in where you aspire. Everyone takes it for granted that I have no husband, no lover, no children, no brothers or sisters. And it is true. The people I work with know that I'm from somewhere down south, and that's just because of the way I speak - I occasionally draw out vowels or skip syllables. I never told anyone that I was born and raised in Georgetown, South Carolina, and if I close my eyes, I can smell the salt marshes and rivers that surround my city. My colleagues must think that I hate my small homeland and therefore fled from there. They are wrong.

There are other reasons for leaving one's father's house besides hatred.

- Knock knock.

At the entrance to my booth, Josephine was stomping around - not "Joe", not "Josie", but "Josephine". Due to the lack of doors, one has to invent various ways to ask permission to enter. Josephine is one of our secretaries; if you get along with her, she is quite nice, but if someone does not like her, it is better for him to stay away from her.

Are you busy? she asked.

At this point, I was tapping on the keyboard, so the answer to the question was obvious, but Josephine is not inclined to notice such trifles. She is one of those women who attract everyone's attention with her appearance - a graceful figure, shiny brown hair and a permanent tan - therefore, she believes that just smiling is enough to get what she wants.

I listened to music on Pandora [3] . I can't take my mind off the song until I remember its name: an old habit that I can't get rid of. "Dream", Aerosmith band. I smiled contentedly.

- What-what? Josephine asked. I think I said it out loud.

“Actually…” I started, but stopped short.

The vague uneasiness that had haunted me since morning turned into a bad feeling.

"Someone walked over your grave," Sissy would say. This is because of a dream that I had at night: I was falling into a black abyss, every moment expecting to hit the ground.

Ignoring my tension, Josephine moved closer.

– Can you explain the dream I had last night? I was running somewhere, but my legs seemed to be stuck in tar.

I put my hands on the table without turning around in my chair, hoping Josephine would take the hint.

- Just google it. There is a lot written on the Internet about dreams. I put my fingers over the keyboard again.

- Yes, I know, but it's easier to ask you. You are our sleep expert. And she smiled brightly.

I had to turn around with a sigh. I'm not an expert, I just read a lot on the subject. For many years I tried to analyze my mother's dreams in an attempt to get to know her better. She hoped naively to figure out what was going on in her head. It seemed to me that this would help to understand the causes of her sadness and anxiety, and with my help, my mother would finally find peace of mind. Nothing worked out for me, but I became keenly interested in dreams - windows into the subconscious. Now, if I accidentally get to a party, I have something to talk about when the topics for conversation run out.

- Your dream has a million different interpretations. For example, you can't achieve a goal in your career or in your personal life, as if something is holding you back.

Josephine looked at me, blinking in bewilderment, either she did not understand the meaning of my words, or she could not imagine that there could be obstacles on her way to her goal.

“Thank you,” she finally said, smiling serenely again; all her doubts were quickly dispelled. – You go with the girls from the sales department to the Hamptons [4] for the weekend?

I shook my head. I wish I could get back to work. Every day at five thirty I have a workout in the gym, which means I have to leave the office at five sharp. I'm used to staying in shape, so I can't afford to hang out after work. No, I have nothing against colleagues - they are cheerful, young and creative, and even thirty-year-olds behave not at all like thirty-year-olds. I just prefer to communicate with them in the office so that I can retreat to the workplace if suddenly someone decides to ask questions other than “what area do you live in?” and “what is the easiest way for you to get to work – by subway or by taxi?”.

“No,” I replied. I will stay in the city for the weekend. – What kind of people? They complain about being overcrowded, and yet they go to the same beaches at the same time to join the same crowd they are trying to escape from. - All the same, the water is still icy, April is in the yard.

Josephine wrinkled her nose; no other muscle in her face twitched. She said she was only using Botox as a preventative measure, but from the looks of her, she would soon be just like the gargoyle women roaming the boutiques on Fifth Avenue. As Cissy would say, it's just unnatural.

“Not colder than usual,” she said. Come with us, it will be fun. We rented a huge house in Montauk. There are two large beds in my room, if you don't mind living with me. Interpret everyone's dreams.

The temptation was great. I never hung out in a company and did not make friends with girls who rent houses in resorts. I had girlfriends in elementary school, but by middle school they all broke up into groups, none of which I got into. True, I have always been friends with Maybry and her twin brother Bennett. Our mothers were best friends, we were even bathed in the same bath in infancy. Since then, we did everything together - until the graduation class, when our friendship ordered a long life.

Memories helped me overcome temptation.

- Thank you for the invitation, but I think I'll stay at home. We need to rearrange the furniture. I've been going for a long time.

Josephine fluttered her eyelashes in surprise.

- Okay. It's probably for the best. I don't want to be next to you when you put on a bikini.

- For your information, I don't wear a bikini. - I like a T-shirt and shorts. - But thanks anyway. Maybe next time.

A mobile phone buzzed on the table. There is no picture or name for this number - I remember it by heart. I didn't move to answer the call.

– Will you pick up the phone? Josephine asked.

It didn't even occur to her to leave and let me talk in private. I dropped the call.

- No. Then I'll call him back.

- To him?

- This is my father.

I basically didn't answer, no matter how much he tried to get through. When I first arrived in New York, he often called; about a year later, the number of calls dropped to one a week. Dad dialed my number on different days and different times of the day, as if he wanted to take me by surprise. He didn't give up. Me too, because I get the Lanier family stubbornness from him.

“So you have a father,” Josephine said expectantly.

- Who doesn't have it?

The phone buzzed again. I wanted to put my cell phone in my desk drawer, but another number popped up on the screen - also familiar, but its owner never calls during business hours. This is Sissy, the woman who raised my mother; she is like a grandmother to me. Sissy is in awe of the fact that I work in New York, so she does not dare to take me away from business. Otherwise, something went wrong.

“Sorry,” I said to Josephine. I must answer this call.

- Okay, just keep in mind that if your dead body is found in a dumpster somewhere on the outskirts of Queensland, we won't know who to tell.

I ignored Josephine's words and turned my back on her.

“Sissy,” I said into the phone. - What happened? Are you all right?

- No, honey, I'm afraid not. Her voice is hoarse, as if she has a cold. – Your mother…

- What's wrong with her?

Ivy Lanier has always been unpredictable, and I'm already used to her eccentricities, but Sissy's words even unsettled me.

She is missing. Nobody has seen her since yesterday morning. Your dad came home from work in the evening, and no mom, no car at home. We called all her friends ... Nobody knows anything about her.

– Has she been gone since yesterday morning? Did you call the police?

- Yes, as soon as they realized that she had disappeared. The sheriff made a report and sent people to search.

My mind overflowed and immediately emptied like a swamp at low tide. Clinging to the pitiful remnants of words at my disposal, I finally formulated the question:

- Where was she yesterday morning?


- I have. Ivy comes here every day, restoring her father's old table in the garage for a month. She went into the house; the kitchen is a complete mess. Everything that was in the boxes is lying on the floor. It looks like she was looking for something.

- Can you guess what it is? – I was surprised by the panic notes in my voice.

Sissy thought about it.

- Maybe she needed clean rags for her work. I have a whole bag of them in my pantry. In fact, it's empty now. She probably forgot that she had exhausted everything.

- But my mother was looking in drawers and cupboards.

- Yes, that's right. I saw that there was no car, and I thought that Ivy had just gone to the hardware store, but the police checked - she did not appear there. Your dad and I are going crazy with worry.

I closed my eyes, anticipating her next words.

- Come home, Larkin. I don't want to be alone. I'm scared…” Sissy's voice trailed off.

- You know, my mother likes to break away and go somewhere. You called her dandelion yourself, remember? It's not the first time she leaves without telling anyone.

I realized how empty and hypocritical my words were. My dream came back again, and my breath caught, as if I had finally hit the ground.

“But she always came back the same day,” Sissy insisted. The police checked all the roads for a hundred miles from the city. Your father drove down Route 17 from Myrtle Beach all the way to Charleston... I didn't want to tell you, but last night I had a dream. It's like I'm falling.

I stared blankly at the black letters flickering on the computer screen - these featureless characters instantly lost their meaning to me.

Have you landed?

- I don't remember. Sissy was silent for a long time. “Please, Larkin, come. I have a bad feeling. I want you to come home. We all want you to come home.

I closed my eyes and in my mind's eye I saw my native land, streams and swamps of my childhood flowing into the boundless Atlantic Ocean. When I was little, my father used to say that sea water flows in my veins. I guess that's why I only come home at Christmas: I'm afraid I'll be swept away by the tide and melt into the ocean. There are many different ways to drown.

- Okay. I opened my eyes, expecting to feel the grass on my bare feet, but instead I found only a metal work table and a fluorescent lamp. “I'll take the first flight to Charleston and take the car. I'll call from the airport so you know when to expect me.

- Thank you. I'll tell your dad.

- Call if there is news about your mother.

- Of course.

Have you called Beatty yet?

“I don’t think she should…” objected Sissy.

“Then I’ll call her myself,” I interrupted. - If something really happened to my mother, she will want to come.

- Only turmoil comes from her.

- Possibly. “And yet, despite her eccentric disposition, Beatty gave me peace of mind during storms. “Beetty loves her mother as much as you do. She needs to know what happened.

- Okay. Call if you want,” Sissy muttered displeasedly. “Just come as soon as possible.

As soon as I hung up, my cell phone buzzed again. I recognized the code "843", but the number was unfamiliar to me. Deciding that it might be news about my mother, I answered:

– Hello?

There was a low male voice, familiar as the sound of rain pouring into a deep channel:

– Hello, Larkin. This is Bennett.

Without answering, I dropped the call and put my phone on silent. It was as if I had returned to my dream - falling and falling into a dark abyss, not knowing how much longer to fly before I hit the solid ground.



Sissy stood in the yard between the kitchen entrance and the garage, trying to trace Ivy's path and figure out what she needed. She examined the old table, which looked like a giant gutted fish, the polish stripped off, the drawers pulled out, then she checked the pantry and kitchen sideboard again to see if anything was missing.

However, Sissi did not find anything, and this only increased her anxiety. She decided to look into the garage again, but then there was a cough of the engine. A plume of black smoke appeared in the driveway. Cissy knew who it was even before she caught sight of the fiery red hair blazing in the sun and the faded, peeling upholstery of a once-pale blue 1970s Volkswagen Beetle.

Already in the seventies, Beatty was a bit old for a beetle, and now even more so. She claims that this car is exactly the size of her, but still looks ridiculous in it, especially with red hair and an awkward colorful hoodie. She always looks like she just came from a school party where everyone is throwing paint at each other. An unmarried, retired art teacher who rejected many inconsolable admirers, Beatty lived in Folly Beach, led a bohemian lifestyle and painted pictures for the sake of earning money, occasionally intruding into Sissy's measured life.

However, Sissi didn't mind. Once upon a time, according to her mother, they were inseparable: Beatty, Cissy and Margaret, three girls in short dresses and patent leather sandals, inseparable from school. However, over time, their friendship faded and oxidized like a copper pan.

Beatty rode closer and blew her horn twice, making Sissy flinch in surprise - not otherwise on purpose. The brakes screeched, and now Beatty nimbly runs towards them, arms outstretched. It wasn't until she was in her arms that Cissy remembered the sense of security that an old friendship gives: it's like a battered, moth-eaten sweater that you wear and wear because it used to be warm.

"You don't look well," Beatty said by way of greeting.

- And you stink like an old ashtray. Sissy looked with displeasure at the bright blue shadows and scarlet spots of rouge on her friend's face. Her makeup hasn't changed since the sixties. - If I did the same make-up, I would still look terrible, except that there would be fewer traces of fatigue on my face.

“I'm glad to see you too,” Beatty said, opening her arms. “So what happened to our Ivy?”

Our Ivy. Sissi's old anger is stirred up. As much as Beatty would like it, Ivy is not her own. Strictly speaking, she and Sissy are not related, but only Sissy raised her and the girl called her mother. What is this if not kinship?!

- You must think you want coffee. “Beatty is the only one of her age who drinks strong coffee and then sleeps like a log. The girlfriends started drinking coffee in high school, following Margaret's example, and since then, Beatty's caffeine resistance has been getting on Cissy's nerves. And don't you dare smoke in the house.

Another car has arrived.

“This is Larkin,” Sissy said. Beatty waved her hands happily, apparently already seeing who was driving. "It's Larkin," Cissy repeated jealously.

"We need to step forward so the girl doesn't have to choose who to hug first," she thought belatedly. However, Beatty was already running towards a beautiful young woman with golden hair like her grandmother Margaret's. Beatty and Larkin embraced, laughing and crying at the same time, as if at a joke that Cissy knows nothing about.

Larkin finally turned to Sissy with a smile. She wrapped her arms around her, and then, pulling back, looked critically from head to toe.

- What a skinny girl you are! You must be blown away by the wind. While you're here, I'll cook whatever you like - cornbread and fried chicken.

- Hello Sissi. Any news about mom?

Larkin looked at Cissy with her bright blue eyes, and she again thought she was seeing Margaret. Dear, beloved, unimaginably beautiful Margaret. Not "Maggie", not "Marge", not "Meg" - just "Margaret". Margaret Darlington of Carrowmore, on the Santee. All Darlingtons were smart and beautiful, and their luck was legendary. The legends lie.

Sissy put her hands on Larkin's shoulders, feeling the sharp bones under her fingers.

- No, dear, no news, unfortunately. Let's go in the house, eat something, and I'll call your dad, tell you that you got there safely.

- I have already eaten. Maybe coffee?

Beatty came up from the other side and put her arm around her waist:

– This is my girl. I taught you a lot, right?

Larkin pressed her cheek against the top of her head:

– Yes, a lot. Like driving a car with a manual transmission, remember?

However, the exchange of memories did not lessen Ivy's anxiety. For my Ivy . Without looking back, Cissy went into the kitchen and made strong coffee, then called Mac to invite him to dinner. She had no doubt that Larkin would stay with her, not with her parents. It's hard to blame a girl for this. It is difficult to forgive a father who shamefully lost his heroic halo in the eyes of his only daughter.

Sissi put the phone to her ear absentmindedly, looking over and over again at the neat kitchen shelves and the beautiful tea set she dusted every day. She reached out to straighten the towel hanging from the oven handle and froze.

There is something stuck in the gap between the stove and the cupboard, almost at the very floor.

Sissy left a voice message for Mack, put down her phone and squatted down with difficulty. My knees cracked like broken glass. Slipping her finger into the slot, she caught hold of an unidentified object and pulled it out.

- Why don't you get up? Beatty asked as she walked over to her.

Sissy wanted to answer, but was speechless when she finally saw her find. Ignoring Beatty's outstretched hand, she grabbed the kitchen table and slowly straightened up.

- What is this? Beatty asked.

Sissi showed her a white cardboard reel with a faded but still legible Hallmark price tag. It had a small piece of gold foil gift ribbon wrapped around it, secured with yellowed tape. The eyes of her friends met.

- What did you find there? Larkin approached them.

Sissy and Beatty turned to her, unable to speak. Larkin glanced at the reel.

– Is that a tape?

“Yes,” Sissy finally managed. “It must have been in the drawer.” I think your mom accidentally dropped it.

Larkin wrinkled her brow, just like Ivy did when she was surprised or angry. Margaret did the same.

- What's the matter? Why are you both looking at this thing like that?

“We seem to know where your mother is,” Beatty said.

- Let's go. Cissy took a cell phone and the keys to the Cadillac from the shelf. We'll tell you along the way.

- On the way where? Larkin snatched the keys from her hands. - I'll drive, and you tell me. Just tell me where to go, and I will drive us faster than the wind.

April 1951

The three girls - Sissi's mother insisted on calling them women because they were eighteen - sat in Margaret's room on a large canopy bed with a frilled bedspread. In front of them lay three pairs of nail scissors and a puffy petticoat of silk tulle. Just a month ago, the friends graduated from school, and Margaret invited Cissy and Beatty to Carrowmore for the weekend, promising them a big surprise.

– Would your mother mind? Sissy asked timidly.

Her mother would have been against it. As the wife of a Methodist pastor, Mrs. Tilden Purnell did her best to set an example of piety, decency, and non-covetousness. No, they did not live in poverty (Mr. Purnell would never have allowed this), but Cissy and her two younger brothers believed that their mother raised thrift to such a degree that their Scottish ancestors would be proud of her. Her signature dish was soup, which was boiled for the whole week, and leftovers from dinner were added to it every day. Lloyd, the eldest of the Sissi brothers, joked that it was only thanks to his father's special relationship with God that none of the Purnells had been poisoned to this day.

Mrs. Purnell showed the same frugality in expressing her love for her children, although Sissi and her brothers had no doubt that their mother adored them. She showed her love quietly, without stormy outpourings: with an affectionate handshake, a smile behind her father, reading a long lecture because of a trifling offense, an extra piece of cake while no one was watching.

Margaret raised her left eyebrow elegantly. After watching Gone with the Wind, the girls practiced for hours in front of the mirror, but only Margaret managed to master this skill.

- Mom allows me to do whatever my heart desires. Today my heart desires to ruin a new petticoat so that we have something to go to the Tree of Desires with.

Sissy and Beatty looked at each other, took scissors and began to cut the skirt into strips. No one, including Margaret, knew when or how the narrow hollow in the trunk of an old oak that grew on the border of the Darlington family's domain became the vault of desires, a thin place leading to the other world. The oak got its name during the Revolutionary War when the first Mrs. Darlington placed a ribbon in the hollow with a message for her husband who had gone to fight. The tree also served in the Civil War (the history teacher forced schoolchildren to call those events that way, despite the fact that here is South Carolina, and the recently deceased grandmother Margaret called them nothing more than “Recent spat” [5] ), and the hard times that followed for the Darlingtons after her graduation.

Mother Margaret considered the tree a divine gift sent by the Creator himself, and a symbol of their family luck. After the War of Independence, their ancestor returned home safe and sound, became the father of fourteen children, and since then prosperity and prosperity have reigned in the family. Even during the Civil War, the Darlington estate was not damaged, since the then head of the family was a Freemason.

Sissi's father thought that writing notes on ribbons and sticking them in a hollow was pure paganism, not like a good old prayer. Nevertheless, Margaret stubbornly referred to the huge oak tree as the "Wishing Tree" and went to it when she needed Darlington luck.

Paganism or not, the notes worked. Everything the Darlingtons touched turned to gold. Their men were handsome, their women were dazzling, and their children were smart. They always seemed a little better than the others. If Cissy did not love Margaret with all her heart, she would definitely hate her.

Sissi's mother knew this, so she tried her best to cool their relationship. Envy is one of the seven deadly sins; even if you try to disguise the green-eyed monster under the guise of friendship or admiration, it will still lurk in ambush, preparing to sink its claws into you.

“I brought the brushes and paints you requested,” Beatty said.

Her father was a school principal and her mother was an art teacher. Sissi and Margaret's parents did not approve of their friendship with a girl whose mother works, however, despite the best efforts of adults, the bonds connecting friends from the first grade were impossible to break.

“Excellent,” Margaret approved, getting out of bed. - Think carefully, and then write on the tapes how you want to see your life. She smiled blissfully.

Sissy stared at the tape, thinking hard. Beatty's parents allowed her to study painting, and since last year Margaret has received bundles of marriage proposals from worthy young people from good families and with a strong position in society. She even entered Wellesley College [6] , but only because the wife of a senator (and Margaret was unanimous in this with her parents) should have a good education.

Sissy's future was non-negotiable. It's not that her opinion doesn't mean anything, it's just that it's a done deal. She was to be married, preferably not to a fool or a freak - and not to an overly ardent, brilliant Will Harris, ten years older, giving her meaningful glances at Sunday services. Unfortunately, he was the only candidate for a husband; no one else dared to show attention to the pastor's daughter and pass the strict test under the hawkish eyes of her mother.

Noticing Sissy's difficulty, Margaret took her hand. Mrs. Purnell thought the young Miss Darlington was shallow and superficial, but Cissy knew for sure that her mother was wrong. Just because a person was born flawless does not mean that he is unable to sympathize with the imperfections of others.

Don't think about reality, Sissy. Think of the possibilities, dream! Imagine something that is impossible to even think about, and write.

- Well, that's easy. Beatty opened a can of red paint, sat down on the wooden floor, spread the tape on it, and with the tip of the brush wrote neat scarlet letters: "I want to become an outstanding artist."

- You probably meant "great artist"? Margaret clarified, wrinkling her delicate nose.

“No,” Beatty replied. Despite her small stature, she had her own opinion on everything and was not shy about expressing it out loud. “Great” is a subjective term. Go figure out who is considered great and who is not. Now, if my work can make people think, then it is outstanding. She rolled up two clean strips of cloth and set them aside. “I don't need anything else.

“Now it's your turn,” Margaret said to Sissy. - Think carefully. Remember - you can change your destiny.

Sissy gritted her teeth and looked angrily at her friend. Margaret is easy, she's a Darlington. Her life is a quiet lagoon full of oysters, and under every shell there is a hidden pearl. You can dream about anything. Cissy understood that she herself was destined for a boring life, predictable, like ebb and flow.

In a sudden impulse of rebelliousness, she took Beatty's brush and wrote in the largest possible letters, to match her dream: "I want to marry an ideal man - handsome, kind, with good prospects, and my love for him will be endless."

She put the brush into the empty jar and looked up at Margaret. She looked at her in surprise, but said nothing.

“Now you,” Sissy said.

“I already wrote,” Margaret replied with a sly smile.

Beatty and Sissy sat down on the bed again; ribbons dried on the floor. After making sure that the attention of her friends completely belonged to her, Margaret cleared her throat and said in a theatrical tone:

- And now - my gift to you in honor of our graduation.

She paused, looking at them enigmatically with bright blue eyes.

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